When You’re Married Almost SEVENTY YEARS… (“Great is Thy Faithfulness”)

Friends! Our family has been on an emotional roller coaster for several weeks over my Father-in-Love, Bill Hoagland.  He was taken into the arms of our Sweet Lord on Sunday, September 22nd. He would’ve been 92 this month.

A sympathy card we received in yesterday’s mail says, “A life is a continuous thread. It weaves itself through love and memory, and remains a part of everyone it has touched.”  My friend Jayne Combs, who sent the card said,

What a dear, dear thought.

Bill and Adeline are blessed with four children, two daughters-in-law, 12 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren for starters!  The number of friends who flowed thru’ the visitation and funeral were astonishing and such a beautiful blessing to all of us.

When planning Bill’s funeral (I called him “Possum” while our kids called him “Huggy”), all of John’s siblings, plus Marte and I, gathered at the Hoagland’s house Sunday afternoon and came up with thoughts for the obituary, favorite hymns for the funeral, etc. Many of our memories were like warm blankets, comforting us, making us laugh one minute and cry the next.

One of my favorite memories of Possum was watching him play the piano.  He could play be ear which always fascinated me.  When I met him for the very first time and shared I, too, play the piano (but NOT by ear!!!), I believe he decided I was okay to enter the family.  That was one of our fun things we could do together.

Possum frequently sported a bow tie.  At his funeral, there were twelve grandsons who became two teams of pallbearers, each wearing a bow tie.  That was one of many scenes causing us all to tear up.

The final honor guard presentation was a sight to behold:   Two young men from the Unites States Navy entered the sanctuary accompanied by taps, saluting the casket, reverently folding the flag, and presenting it to Adeline.  Not a dry eye existed, and I know Bill would’ve loved this.

Beyond all of Bill’s accomplishments, far and away were the heights he and Addie would go to for their marriage.  Addie often says, “He was always so kind to me.”

Those of you who knew Bill, know he and Addie were inseparable.  What one couldn’t do, the other could, always helping one another.  They sailed all over the city eating at many restaurants along the way. They would’ve been married SIXTY-NINE YEARS this November.

Below are a couple of older photos of the two lovebirds.  I think they look like movie stars!

One of the many lovely hymns sung at Bill’s funeral was “Great is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas Obediah Chisholm. Thomas was born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky. Rob Morgan, in his book Then Sings My Soul:  150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories, tells us Thomas began teaching school at the early age of 16.

He came to Christ when he was 27 and because of numerous illnesses, went from job to job. Upon discovering his many new blessings each day, He wrote “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” taking the phrase from Lamentations 3:22-23,

The lyrics speak not only to our own faith in God, but I believe they speak to Bill’s devotion to Adeline and to his family:

Thomas wrote over 1,200 poems and hymns. His friend, William Runyan, is who composed the music to this song and many others.  He was so moved in particular by this one, Rob tells us “he prayed earnestly for special guidance in composing the music.”

The hymn didn’t take off at first.  Finally, Dr. Will Houghton of the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago made “Great is Thy Faithfulness” an unofficial theme song for the school.  But who really made it popular was the one and only George Beverly Shea and the choirs at the Billy Graham Crusades. (These are only a few of the many fun facts you can learn from Then Sings My Soul.)

This summer, soon after our two new grandsons, Ford and Henry, were born, they got to meet Huggy. This tickled us pink to see so many generations.  There’s that thread Jayne taught us about.

When I stop and think John and I’ve been married thirty-five years, right about half of what Bill and Adeline were, I can’t imagine life without my “better two-thirds”.  Our family would covet your prayers for Adeline as this journey ahead will be challenging.

My sis-in-love, Marte, told me soon after both her parents died and mine were both gone as well, “Oh, but we’re only shortly separated.”  Amen and Amen.

Below are the “Fabulous Four Sibs” :  L-R:  Van, Billy, John and Margee, and a more recent photo of Bill and Adeline.

 

May it be said of us as we lean toward Heaven, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” And as Bob Hope used to sing, “Thanks for the Memories.” We miss you, Huggy!

‘Til next time!

 

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Who’s Your Constant Companion? Let’s look to Anne Graham Lotz and her new book for some answers…

Friends! Mark your calendars for next Tuesday, October 1st. Why? You’ll be able to snag a copy of Jesus in Me: Experiencing the Holy Spirit as a Constant Companion.


I found this book to be a superb learning tool (turns out I’m not the only one who forgets they’re filled with the Holy Spirit!), a beautiful peek into many personal and poignant, heart-warming stories of Anne’s and of her family’s, who we all admire, plus excellent ways to become better acquainted with the Holy Spirit.

The book’s divided into 7 parts:

(My favorite is Appendix A: “Learning How to Hear the Holy Spirit’s Whispers When You Read Your Bible.” All four are very thorough!)

There are 27 chapters within these 7 parts. They’re short and sweet, each packing a punch. You’ll find yourself more than once saying, “Wow, I had no idea!”

Anne calls the Holy Spirit her Divine Companion and claims He’s a divine necessity. This was evident when she wrote the book. During this process, her own Father went to Heaven. She was already a widow, and six months after losing her Father, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, having to undergo the horrid effects of chemotheraphy.

She tells us, “Through the ups and downs, the tears and joy, the grief and comfort, I have experienced the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit.”

It’s not lost on me that this very week our family is also dealing with loss. My sweet Father-in-love, who was 91 years young, went to Heaven on Sunday morning. It was a glorious day and a blessing for Dad (I called him Possum) to no longer suffer. Our family would covet your prayers for my Mother-in-love, Adeline, Bill’s wife of almost sixty-nine years as she travels this journey.

After Anne’s children took care of her for fifteen months after Danny’s death, she learned the Holy Spirit can comfort us through the love and care of others. But when she did walk thru’ the door of her empty home, she realized she was still never alone. Her Comforter and Friend were with her all along. She sensed the presence of the Spirit of God. The number of reassurances such as this one fill the book.

One of several “aha” moments occurred when she says, “When He comes to indwell us, the newest believer has as much of the Holy Spirit as the oldest believer has, because we don’t get a person in pieces. Yet regrettably, He seems to get us in pieces.” For example, we give more to Him on Sunday than any other day, buzzing about our own agendas. Ouch and oh-so-true.

Another convicting (but in the best of ways) activity Anne includes is a list of sins for us to take an inventory of. Pure fun, huh?!!! She suggests reading thru’ the list 1-3 times. (See Appendix C)

At one time, Anne felt like she was far away from the Lord. She couldn’t quite put her finger on the problem. After reading thru’ the list a total three times, she said, “I realized I wasn’t as wonderful as I thought I was!” She was happy (and relieved) to report her relationship with the Lord was restored.

Don’t miss her trip to India that almost didn’t happen. The brutal attacks from Satan were so numerous you can’t imagine. It was if she had an iron-clad will to proceed full steam ahead. The lives that were reached for Jesus were almost too numerous to count and many who were with her said their team brought light to the darkness in that country. (See Chapter 6, “Our Strengthener.)

Two other examples I’d never thought of are:

1 – If God said Abraham was His friend three times in Scripture (2 Chronicles 29:7, Isaiah 41:8, and James 2:23), Anne reasoned, “why couldn’t I ask God for me to be His friend?” (This was the inspiration for another beautiful book by Anne, The Magnificent Obsession: Embracing the God Filled Life)

Anne shares with us that one of the things she misses most about her Mother was her understanding and her ability to give her children wise counsel, comfort, and encouragement. She also said she never tired of hearing her Mother pray. She says, “The tone of her prayer was as tho’ she was speaking to a powerful and well-connected FRIEND.” There again, the lovely bonus of being God’s friend.

2 – If Solomon could ask God for wisdom, why can’t we? (2 Chronicles 1:10) One of Anne’s many gifts is showing us multiple ways we can apply God’s Word to our lives. As my friend Caroline says, “This, friends, is where the rubber meets the road.”

A beautiful pray-er, Anne includes written prayers at the end of many chapters. I found myself putting many of her quotes in my journal. She always gets to the heart of the matter, quickly, while I spin in circles!

One more tidbit, so as not to reveal the whole book (!!!), is we learn the Holy Spirit is “the Fire of God.” Anne reminds us that fire is used to describe the Holy Spirit all throughout the Bible. She said, “The Holy Spirit sets our hearts on fire for God Himself…You and I should be FIRED UP all the time!”

She continues,

Here’s the BEST application question: “What is the spiritual temperature of your heart? Cold? Lukewarm? Or is it on fire? What practical steps can you take to fan into flame the fire of the Holy Spirit?”

You also don’t want to miss where Anne shares what her Mother wrote in her Bible when she became a Christian. I’m not about to spoil that for you. It’s beautiful.

Now you know what I’m about to say…Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and grab this book! You will LOVE it.

And checkout Anne’s website. It’s full of great information, most of which you can download for your small groups or your own use:

‘Til next time!

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YOU’RE INVITED TO OUR FIRST BOOK CLUB MEETING OF THE SEASON, MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 23rd! Special giveaways and message in store…

Friends!  Branches Book Club gals would like to invite you and your friends to kick off our season Monday night, September 23rd, from 6:30-8:00 p.m., at Middletown United Methodist Church.

 

We’ll be discussing Amanda Barratt’s excellent novel, My Dearest Dietrich.  You can read my review of it here.

 

 

Amanda has been most gracious and sent us a boatload of goodies:  bookmarks, postcards with quotes by Bonhoeffer, recipe cards for Apple Kuchen, etc.  You can take these home with you.

 

Amanda also made us a lovely, personal video we’ll get to watch.  She was on a book deadline for her next novel which we’ll get to hear about, so it was extra generous of her to take the time to speak with us!!

 

You’ll be stunned at her wisdom and strong faith at such an early age.  I hope you caught her on the Eric Metaxas show recently. Here’s the link to her interview.

 

If time allows, please bring something German to eat.  (Kroger has German potato salad.  LOL). Please call Nancy Tinnell to rsvp (502)245-8839.

 

Load up your car with friends and neighbors!  You don’t want to miss this fun night!

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243 http://www.middletownumc.org

We hope to see you Monday night, September 23rd, from 6:30-8:00 p.m.!

 

‘Til next time!

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Brace Yourself for What David Platt is Serving Up

Friends!  Ever find yourself a tad uncomfortable while reading a book?  Such was the experience for me while reading David Platt’s newest book, Something Needs to Change:  A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need. (This is a GOOD THING tho’, hang with me…The book releases September 17th.)

David does an outstanding job of taking us readers with him on a hair-raising week in the Himalayan mountains.  We join him and his team of four others, complete with wild helicopter rides, bus rides, hiking on trails where a misstep could be your last, sleeping in a sleeping bag in places with no electricity, freezing temps, and plenty of jumping spiders. I kept thinking, “They are way braver than I’d ever be…”

David tells us from the get go:

He tells us that that is his prayer for this book. (And you’d best tuck your toes under the table as they’re about to get crushed. Again, this is a good thing.)

One favorite aspect of the book is David’s journal entries. He works his way thru’ the book of Luke during his week in the Himalayans.  His insight and life application ideas are worthy of copying into our own journals.

Each chapter is a day of their week’s travel, usually to a different village each time.  We learn frightening stats, such as, “half the children were dying before their eighth birthdays. Many weren’t making it to their first.” Another awful discovery was the death of sixty people from cholera because a village had poor sanitation and unclean water. Yet another huge problem is the amount of trafficking of young girls “often starting when they’re about seven but even up to fifteen years old.”

They learn the traffickers are smart, knowing how poor most of the villagers are.  They pretend they’re trying to help these families and they lie by promising they’ll help these girls get jobs, giving them money up front to entice them. Sadly most of them never return.

David poses many questions we, ourselves, would also consider.  The big “why?” pops up multiple times accompanied by pleading with God in David’s journal entries.  Many villagers David and his team meet have never heard of Jesus. The mystery the team all agrees on is this question:

Aaron answers David with why we need “to believe the Bible and to show that belief by spending your life sharing His truth and love in a world of urgent spiritual need. Not merely physical need, as important as physical need is. But to live like people’s spiritual need is their most urgent need.”

They discuss the village that was so adversely affected by the cholera.  They were able to get water filters and medical kits and a sanitation system to them…”but, as helpful as those water filters are, the fact is, they won’t get anybody in that village to heaven…What that village needs more than anything else is the truth of God’s love, which will give them life forever.” Let that soak in for a minute…

Halfway thru’ their week, David and his team get to attend a church service in another village.  They arrive after a grueling, two-hour hike.  They notice “tiny lights in the distance slowly making their way up the trail.”  David recalls the stress some of his congregants experience in a mere fifteen minute trip to attend church in the States.  The villagers that night made a “two-hour hike up a narrow mountainside in the freezing cold, followed by a two-hour hike back down the same mountainside in the pitch-black darkness after the service.” Yes, well, that will make you never take our freedom and flexibility of attending church services for granted again, right?

Likewise the prayers David concludes each chapter with not only make you think, they move you to action.  One morning David prayed,

Later that day he met a gal named Maya who chose to come up the mountain and work in a medical clinic after going to nursing school.  Maya repeated almost verbatim David’s prayer when asked why she was there.

Don’t miss the science lessons revealing the creativity of God in Day 5.  Who knew trout poop would lead to food for villagers in the Himalayan mountains?  And how a tree in northern Alabama is uniquely designed by God to soak up horse urine for the spread of the gospel in the Middle East. Huh?

Spiritual warfare is another challenge not only David’s team encounters, but one the villagers live with daily.  Some don’t know enough about it to recognize it.  The stories the team learn will make your hair stand on end.

David admits their seven days in the mountains felt like weeks.  We readers would agree considering all they accomplished each day.  I believe the Lord stretched their time to show them multiple needs to be addressed, opening all of our eyes.

The entire point of this book is found in its’ title:  Something Needs to Change.  David’s questions at the end of each chapter give us readers ideas, causing us to realize the sense of urgency with which we should all be living.

Don’t miss the opportunity to read and savor this book.  It will kick your brain into high gear plus David’s vulnerability on every page will do two things:  First, it’ll make you feel better that such a man of huge faith and trust can waiver and question God just like we do.  Second, it’ll make you just as uncomfortable with these challenging scenarios as David is and will cause you to become more aware of ways we can help those around us.

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore and grab Something Needs to Change.

‘Til next time!

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Next Time You’re Down in the Dumps, Grab “Every Bitter Thing is Sweet—Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things” by Sara Hagerty

Friends! Havin’ a bad day? One of those where everything goes wrong? Chances are, if you’re not, someone you know is.

I’ve got just the cure. It’s one we all know, and yet forget daily.

My good buddy, Liz, loaned me a boatload of books recently, and this one, Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things by Sara Hagerty has been an eye-opening blessing for this woe-is-me girl. 63823EB Many times when I read a book, I try to come up with one, single, take-away word. “Adoration” is our inspiration in this book and “adore” the verb to put into action.

You may already be familiar with Sara’s blog, www.everybitterthingissweet.com She has information on her book, resources, her posts for the blog, plus an incredible section with fantastic printables under “Adoration”. (I chose this word before I knew she had an entire section in her blog about it!!!)

Brutally honest, Sara journeys us readers thru’ some tough times in her life. She’s been blessed with friends who she says “wore a brand of Christianity that was attractive, but foreign.” (to her) She continues, “They acted as if they believed God didn’t just tolerate them; He enjoyed them.” These fascinating friends “approached their days with a confidence that God had something for them…” Wow, don’t we all want that?

In the midst of three equally difficult trials (infertility, lengthy adoption processes and her father dying of cancer), Sara said, “God was revealing this kind of availability to me in both the big aches and the everyday small ones.”

With eyes opened to a different perspective, she told her husband, “…all this mess—was fodder for discovering His love anew.” Small newborn baby legs in mothers lovely hand with soft focus on babie's foot Here comes the adoration part….This is what Sara does and what we all can do. She reveals, “My first step in inhaling adoration was inviting that language into my everyday ache.” She began with one word or phrase from the Bible, depending on her particular need or worry. For example, from Psalm 36:5 and 57:10 she read, “Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.” Sun Ray Shining Through The Clouds In The Blue Sky Then she’d pray:

God, You are faithful.

You are faithful when I am fearful.

I can count on You.

You will not leave me when You see my failure.”

Here are just a few of Sara’s discoveries about adoration (This is my favorite part of the book and what I believe to be the most powerful):

“Adoration is exploration. The Father loves to be explored.

Fear loses oxygen when every moment suspends itself under the purpose of bringing Him glory.

Adoration makes walking with God more than just reacting to a series of externals.

Adoration CALLS the circumstances, no matter how high or low, into proper submission in our hearts.

Adoration ROOTS us in a reality that no amount of pain and no amount of blessing can shake.

Adoration STEADIES US. Inspirational Typographic Quote - Slow and Steady It REPATTERNS our thinking.

It CENTERS our lives around a God-man instead of forever trying to make sense of the God-man thru’ the lenses of our circumstances.

Adoration ALIGNS US under Him… THIS IS THE PLACE WHERE LIFE IS FOUND.”

Another excellent part of the book is found at the end of each chapter where Sara gives us several Scriptures to look up which pertain to the chapter. The “For Your Continued Pursuit” passages bring light and promises from His Word to bless you, the reader.

Sara’s vivid style makes you feel like you’re riding in the car with them many times and you say, “Oh no!” out loud more than once! However, with her “adoration-eyes-on”, she shows us God is on her side, fighting for her and her family. And just wait ‘til you see how God builds their family. (Not spoilin’ the fun! You must discover this for yourself! You need to take the journey with her.)

I pray we’ll all open our eyes, filled with adoration for our Creator, our Heavenly Father, our Constant Companion.

Sara says the experience is like a “minute-by-minute communion” that makes her feel alive. Wouldn’t you love that too?

Romans 15-13 ‘Til next time!

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Letters and Papers from Prison Pack a Punch from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Friends!  Don’t you love it when one book leads to another because you want to find out “more of the story?”

Such was the scenario upon finishing Amanda Barratt’s compelling novel, My Dearest Dietrich.  (Here’s my review on her book…) Amanda graciously gives us readers several books for further exploration.

I immediately ordered one of her recommendations.  It has cut me to the core, but in an inspiring way.  If any of you hear me complaining about anything from here on out, you have my permission to bonk me over the head with this very book!

The book?  Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison compiled by Edward Bethge

These letters are from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his family and friends, along with letters in return from them, plus Dietrich’s notes on various topics such as books, types of music, favorite hymns, as well as lessons he learns and occasional poems. His dear friend, Eberhard Bethge, put all of these together in book form. A mere 436 pages, we readers simply cannot rush thru’ these gems. (Don’t miss the two important words in the title, “from prison.”)

What’s evolved for me (you may prefer to read it differently) is I’m only reading a few of the letters each day, devotional-style.  Because Bonhoeffer references so many Scripture verses, it’s nice to look them up and figure out where he’s leading us. There are more pearls hidden in these letters than one can count.

What’s terribly convicting, yet in a positive way to grow our own faith, is Dietrich’s deep contentment and joy in spite of being imprisoned, treated unfairly, many times starved (although he said, “The mind’s hunger for discussion is much more tormenting than the body’s hunger for food.”), all the while enduring air raids, bombing, etc.  His faith never wavered.

As time progresses, Dietrich befriends some of the prison guards as well as the inmates, often helping in the sick bay.  Fellow prisoners look up to him, many times seeking his thoughts and wisdom. We readers gain a beautiful visual of why he was also known as Pastor Bonhoeffer.

His correspondence with family and friends obviously helps him cope with his circumstances.  He once told his fiancé, Maria, that their engagement was a source of strength to him.  He was able to convert “his annoyance at the limitations of our relationship, into a hopeful and eager expectation and challenge.” Maria was allowed monthly visits.

Dietrich said of his relationship with Maria, “I believe our union can only be a sign of God’s grace and kindness, which calls us to faith.” And in regard to trusting in the future, he said, “This is where faith belongs. May God give it to us daily.”

Often Dietrich reminds himself about the importance of worshipping God, praying to God, and doing so every single day.  His resolve and exuberant love for the Lord is the most beautiful aspect of these letters. I kept asking myself, “HOW does he go on?  How can he stand this?”  And yet, he never complains. Ever.

One of my favorite discoveries is the sincerity with which he closes each letter, always personalizing it for the recipient. In a letter to Dietrich’s friend, Eberhard, from 7/21/44 in Tegel prison,  he closes with,

Eberhard organized Dietrich’s letters and papers into four parts in the book:

Knowing of his death in April of 1945, as that date approaches in the book, I found myself getting nervous for Dietrich. From his letters, of course he has no idea, although more than once he directs Eberhard to feel free to use any money of his needed and how to dispose of his things should he not make it out of prison. He also sought out an attorney to prepare his will.

In October of 1944, Dietrich was moved from Tegel, to the Gestapo prison.  It became impossible to visit him there.  We’re told there was an air raid in February and the prison was badly damaged, so Bonhoeffer was moved out of Berlin. Maria goes looking for him, at three different prisons:  Dachau, Buchenwald and Flossenburg. She could not find him.  Upon his death, it took months for Maria and Dietrich’s parents to find out. So, so sad.

On a happier note, one of my favorite entries by Dietrich comes from May of 1944, entitled:  “Thoughts on the Day of the Baptism of Dietrich Wilhelm Rüdiger Bethge.”  Eberhard and Renate named their first born child, a son, for Dietrich.  Dietrich tells young Dietrich his three names bear reference to three houses “with which your life is, and always should be, inseparably connected.” Dietrich continues, “I look forward to your future with great confidence and cheerful hope.”

Dietrich’s sermon teaches young Dietrich about many things such as the security of a good home.  He calls it one of the greatest gifts saying his home “will be a bulwark against all dangers from within and without…”

Children will be drawn into their parents’ protection, and they will seek refuge, counsel, peace, and enlightenment,” adding ,”your parents’ home will be a storehouse of spiritual values, helping dissolve your perplexities and purifying your character and sensibility, and in times of care and sorrow will keep a ground-bass of joy alive in you.” (Ground-bass is a musical reference the families would’ve understood given their musical talent.)

And this phrase Dietrich adds can be prayed for, for all of our homes:

“The piety of your home will not be noisy or loquacious, but it will teach you to say your prayers, to fear and love God above everything, and to do the will of Jesus Christ.”

Then we’re gifted with Proverbs 6:20-22

This is but one of many, many verses Dietrich includes for little Dietrich.  It’s the dearest piece of writing and one I’m sure little Dietrich and his family cherished. Additionally these few quotes I’ve included from other letters are a mere minutia of the gold you’ll dig out of this book.

Eberhard Bethge, who assembled these many letters for Letters and Papers from Prison, also wrote a biography on Bonhoeffer.  You know where I’m going with this…Here’s the cover:

Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and grab any of these three books!  My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt, Letters and Papers from Prison from Dietrich Bonhoeffer compiled by Eberhard Bethge, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer:  A Biography by Eberhard Bethge.

Please fill your car with friends and come join us at Branches Book Club on Monday, September 23rd, at Middletown United Methodist Church from 6:30-8:00 p.m.  when we discuss My Dearest Dietrich.  Amanda Barratt, while she lives in Michigan, is going to send us a video message you won’t want to miss!

‘Til next time!

 

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“My Dearest Dietrich” Encourages Readers to Learn More about Bonhoeffer…

Friends!  Don’t you love it when you finish a book and want to learn more about its subject?  Such will be the scenario when you dive into My Dearest Dietrich:  A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love by Amanda Barratt.

I recently heard an interview with our author, Amanda Barratt, and Eric Metaxas on the Metaxas Talk Show. (www.metaxastalk.com) One could argue over which of the two knows more about Bonhoeffer given Amanda’s research for her novel and Eric’s tome

Not having learned much about Bonhoeffer’s fiancee, Maria von Wedemeyer-Weller, I was delighted to learn of Amanda’s new novel, My Dearest Dietrich, especially since Branches Book Club will open their season with it come Monday, September 23rd. (Mark the date on your calendar!  6:30-8:00 p.m., at Middletown United Methodist Church! Load up your car with friends and come!)

Hearing the interview further fueled my desire to read Amanda’s book, promptly causing me to order it. The Living Word Bookstore currently has lots of copies for you book clubbers! Call to reserve your copy:  (502) 253-8220.

The most astonishing discovery of this talented author is her age.  Wait for it: Amanda is only TWENTY-THREE YEARS OLD.  Huh?  You’ll flip even more once you dive into her book, her words wrapping around you like a warm blanket.

Gaining a peak into Dietrich and Maria’s relationship is delightful.  We readers must remind ourselves this book is a novel, yet we feel as if we are right there with them, almost afraid to disturb their privacy.

For me, seeing this side of Bonhoeffer, my eyes were opened to a much, much different man.  While I’ve always respected him as a ten-talent theologian who continues to inspire thousands, I’d never considered the softer side of him.  Additionally, I knew of his close ties with his family, and still didn’t ponder exactly how close they were.

Finishing Amanda’s novel only made me want to learn more.  Bless her for listing suggestions for further reading at the end of her book, one book of which, I’ll be reporting on soon!  (Letters and Papers from Prison by Bonhoeffer, compiled by Dietrich’s dear friend, Eberhard Bethge.)

The other kicker for me, was, since I knew the outcome of Bonhoeffer’s life (Spoiler alert:  he was hung in prison the morning of April 9th, in 1945.), somehow I still hoped we’d see him freed from prison, and see them married off.  Nevertheless, My Dearest Dietrich is the quintessential page-turner.

The novel opens in June of 1942.  We get to see how Dietrich and Maria meet, his involvement with the Abwehr, his writing habits, along with snippets of his resume which intimidate Maria. For example:  She calls him “a thoroughgoing academic, earning his doctorate in theology at the age of twenty-one, going on to pastor in Spain, complete a postdoctoral degree, study in America, lecture at Berlin’s University, and actively participate in maintaining ecumenical communication between foreign churches. He also became one of the foremost leaders in the Confessing Church—a group that fought desperately both to counter the false teachings of the Reich Church and to keep alive a church founded on Scripture’s doctrine rather than Herr Hitler’s.”

Dietrich, in his 30’s, and Maria, a mere teenager, become engaged much to the chagrin of her mother, insisting they wait a full year to date including no letters and no visits. Thankfully this changes once Dietrich becomes imprisoned. Soon letters become exchanged and Maria gets to visit him once a month. Reading about their visits is simply breathtaking.  They’re also frustrating given the officers who feel compelled to be present.

We see through Maria’s eyes both a serious side of Dietrich as she recounts hearing him preach, counting sixty-eight times his use of the word, “God.” As well as a lighter side: in the same afternoon she witnesses him “trounce everyone at table tennis.”

Another element I particularly enjoyed was the musical influence over his entire family, Dietrich included.  Often they play classical pieces together, everyone playing a different musical instrument, Dietrich at the piano. This was their way of life.

Their family meals seem perpetually challenging intellectually.   I find this fascinating as time around the table is not a part of our way of life today, sadly. Although we can certainly aspire to such! (In a perfect world, a round table is my favorite with our family, you?)

During the frightening times of the Hitler regime, never knowing when one could potentially be arrested, the Bonhoeffer’s made the most of their time together.  Maria said Dietrich’s words were always “full of purpose, clarity, and even rarer, hope.”

Dietrich shared a revelation about his faith with Maria.  He told her what he enjoyed most about his visit to America was in the Abyssinian Baptist Church.  He said,

As time marches on, the intensity of the war builds, the conspirators remain on edge, yet standing firm. Their ultimate goal was to assassinate Hitler.  Black-out curtains are hung in all the windows. Cars begin stalking them and we readers find ourselves on edge as well.  Amanda’s skill at foreshadowing is key.

One of many favorite quotes comes from November 11, 1942, in Berlin:  “The time might come when Dietrich would be among those reduced to starvation rations, and as his gaze traveled the table, the faces of his parents, he committed it all to memory, storing up each scene like an art collector locking away his beloved masterpieces.”

While many of their friends become arrested, others die either from war or suicide.  Dietrich learns of many soldiers suffering, “the young men who had once been his students, the lifeblood of his illegal seminary…”

Dietrich declares in a meeting of the conspiracy, “Above all, these concerns must be taken to God. His is the only authority to which we can rightfully answer. Seek Him, He will not fail you.”

Many fellow prisoners and guards, after becoming acquainted with Dietrich comment on his remarkable peace and tranquility he exhibited.  His steadfast faith and trust in the Lord is wonderfully inspirational. You find yourself reading with your jaw open in astonishment over his ability to stay calm, forever seeking the Lord in prayer, day, after day, after day.

Don’t miss all the beautiful details of Dietrich and Maria’s relationship as well as their inspirational faith.  More than once I asked myself, “Could I, and would I react like this?  Would my faith hold true?”

Now you know what I’m going to say, “Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore and grab My Dearest Dietrich.”  You’ll be so glad you did.

And don’t forget to save the date: September 23rd to join us at Branches Book Club, Middletown United Methodist Church from 6:30-8:00 p.m. when we discuss this excellent novel.  You won’t want to miss this! We’re hoping to hear from Amanda via a video message (I’ll confirm this closer to our meeting) and of course, we’ll have apple strudel among other German delights!

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243 http://www.middletownumc.org

‘Til next time!

 

 

 

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